Aw: Making the Argument for Sanskrit

Philipp Maas phmaas at ARCOR.DE
Wed Jan 3 09:29:46 UTC 2007

 a) Our knowledge of "the Indian culture", which is strongly dependent on Sanskrit sources, is still in its infancy. Thousands of texts are not yet published, and millions of manuscripts wait to be collated. We need much more—not less—specialists to work on these sources.

b) The present position of Indology as an academic field located at the outskirts of the humanities is not a natural one. It is the result of the eurocentric attitude which governed Western university politics throughout their history. The relative weakness of Indology in terms of funding is not to be taken as a sign for a lack of importance, it is a sign for the need of improvement.

Philipp Maas

----- Original Nachricht ----
Von:     Dominik Wujastyk <ucgadkw at UCL.AC.UK>
An:      INDOLOGY at
Datum:   03.01.2007 01:14
Betreff: Making the Argument for Sanskrit

> The closure of Skt and Hindi undergraduate teaching at Cambridge, and of
> Skt at Berlin, reminds us all of the crisis facing our field.  There are 
> sub-critical but still serious threats to the subject at many other 
> universties in Germany and elsewhere.
> I would like to initiate here on the INDOLOGY list a conversation about 
> the aims and values of Sanskrit teaching in western universities.  If we 
> can jointly develop a set of plausible arguments for the value and 
> importance of our field, then I will post it as a document on the INDOLOGY 
> website for general information, use and reference.
> I have been heartened and interested to see in The Economist's "The World
> in 2007" magazine, currently on the bookstands, p.39, an article that
> mentions the Cambridge closure in the following terms:
>    In October 2006, for example, Cambridge University awarded India's Prime
>    Minister, Manmohan Singh, an honorary doctorate.  As such things go,
>    this was a fairly high-profile affair.  There was much talk of the
>    university's strong historica connection with India and its plans for
>    deepening that relationship.  There was less talk about the fact that,
>    for the first time since the 1860s, new students are no longer able to
>    take a BA in Hindi or Sanskrit.  Surely a case not so much of looking
>    to the future as turning your back on the past.
> If we can develop the right kind of statement about the value of classical 
> Indian studies, I would be willing to explore the possibilities of 
> releasing it as a press release, though I have no experience in doing 
> this.
> As a start, I give here the three reasons I stated in my letter to the
> Berlin authorities for supporting the study and teaching of Sanskrit.
> ------------------------------------
> 1. Indology is a field of study that offers students a rigorous 
> intellectual training that is applicable to almost any of their future 
> fields of study and employment.
> 2. It is a field full of fascination, since it introduces a beautiful, 
> profound culture that viewed the world very differently from us today. 
> This experience is inherently enlarging and promotes inter-cultural 
> tolerance and understanding.
> 3. And Indology is a field that has assumed a special relevence and
> importance due to the contemporary international politics of global
> conflict in Asia, and the extraordinary economic rise of China and
> India. This is precisely a time where Asian studies, including Indology,
> should be encouraged and developed.
> ------------------------------------
> I invite you to add to this list, or to change or improve the wording in 
> any way you wish.
> I consider argument 3 to be the weakest from the internalist point of 
> view.  But the fortunes of Asian studies have often risen and fallen in 
> tune with the politics of the day.  Although it may be opportunistic, I 
> think it is still worth attempting to make use of the contemporary 
> fascination with the rise of India as a world economic power.
> Best,
> Dominik Wujastyk

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